When theme parks, beaches, scuba diving, and whale watching have lost their charm after multiple vacations to Mexico, perhaps a visit to The Land of Frogs is in order.
The City of Guanajuato, which is called The Crown Jewel of Mexico’s colonial cities, was named The Land of Frogs by a group of indigenous people. By some accounts, the natives took one look at the terrain and said, “Nothing but frogs could live here!” Some say they found thousands of frogs in the mountainous terrain. Others contend it was the shape of the mountains that reminded the people of frogs. Whichever story is true, Guanajuato is a place to get to know.
Guanajuato earned its place in world geography when the Spanish found the surrounding mountains rich in silver deposits. In fact, at one time more than one third of the world’s silver was mined in Guanajuato. Though none of the usual summer vacation activities exist in Guanajuato, this city exudes history with every unsteady step you take on its cobblestone streets.
Guanajuato is the Cradle of Mexican Independence. It was here that Mexico began its quest to become Mexican. This is the perfect spot to see where and learn how Mexico began to fight for its hard-earned independence from Spain. Although small, Guanajuato has outstanding colonial architecture, built with the silver revenue from times past. With modern museums, cultural events almost year-round, one of the world’s oldest universities, and an almost perfect year-round temperate climate in which to enjoy this country’s Crown Jewel, Guanajuato can be the perfect alternative to the usual vacation fare.
A large number of first-time visitors we’ve interviewed have expressed amazement at how Guanajuato defies their stereotypical expectation of Mexico. Many who have traveled extensively throughout Europe have told us how Guanajuato could be a town from Spain or northern Italy, somehow magically transplanted to this side of the planet.
Depending on whom you ask, Guanajuato has a population of between 100,000 to 120,000. It is nestled in a ravine literally built up the sides of the bowl like surrounding mountains. If nothing else, a trip to Guanajuato would be worth the time and expense, just to marvel at how the Mexicans figured out how to build this city. To call it a marvel is a gross understatement.
Another astonishment to behold is Guanajuato’s system of underground tunnels. Originally, the Guanajuato River flowed through the center of town. Numerous devastating floods occurred over the centuries; engineers decided to divert the river away from the middle of town in the early 1900´s. Afterwards, the riverbed was turned into a maze of underground streets – this time to divert traffic.
All one need do is visit the Tourism Office to find an English speaking tour guide to take you on an unbelievably rich tour of where Mexico began – at a price that won’t break your wallet.
How To Get There
More American tourists are driving to Guanajuato. This is not as difficult as one might imagine. Go to Google.com and type “driving to Mexico”. You will find numerous articles on the logistics of driving there. The only problem you will encounter when arriving in Guanajuato, is parking. Although city officials are building more parking facilities, it is a nightmare and at a premium; you will rarely find adequate and safe parking near your accommodation.
The best way to arrive is to fly to Leon, Guanajuato. From there, you can take a cab for $25.00 or $30.00 – about a 45-minute ride.
A way to combat the difficulty of your Leon cabbie knowing where your lodging is located, especially if you have arranged a private apartment for your vacation stay, is to have the cabdriver take you to the Guanajuato’s Holiday Inn, or the bus station. From there it is a simple matter of switching to a Guanajuato cabdriver who will know where everything is in Guanajuato’s confusing maze of streets.
Guanajuato has a large influx of wealthy travelers to whom the accommodation industry caters to lavishly. You can find places to stay that will boggle your mind and your pocketbook. Check out BootsnAll to view your options.
For middle-class budgets we recommend the following:
1. La Casa de Dulcinea, Positos #44, Zona Centro, Telephone: 473-732-2406. There are only nine small rooms with two double beds. Bathrooms (shower only) are inside the room but tiny. No restaurant, no phones in the rooms
2. Casa Carcamanes, Plazuela Carcamanes No. 8, Guanajuato, México, Telephone: 473-732-5172
Rooms have baths, shared kitchen. You can arrange to use the washing machine. They also have apartments for rent. E-mail them for apartment rates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. La Casa Azul, Calle Carcamanes #57, Colonial Centro, Guanajuato, México, Telephone: 473-731-2288.
Each room has a television, a dorm-sized refrigerator, shared kitchen and dining room. There is a rooftop terrace for guest use, as well as two shared living rooms. You can have your laundry done for a moderate price.
Eating on a Budget
You can spend as much or as little as you wish on food. Almost all the restaurants serve a meal of the day. For as little as $3.00, you can get a filling meal, complete with desert and a drink. For breakfast or a late snack, visit the many small panaderias (bakeries) where you can buy a torta (sandwich), empanadas (a meat pie), drinks and an assortment of delicious pastries for practically nothing. Fruit stands line the street. Eating while in Guanajuato need not break your budget.
If you want something a little different in Mexico vacationing, try Guanajuato: The Land of Frogs.
Doug Bower's newest book, Notes from South of the Border Survival: Tips to Maximize Expat Success in Central Mexico is available exclusively at LuLu Press.